Why We Watch: Another West Coast test for soaring Falcons


Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons

 

Quarterback Russell Wilson congratulates his left tackle Russell Okung in the Seahawks locker room after the win.

(Russell Wilson photo courtesy of Seattle Seahawks)
(Matt Ryan cover photo courtesy of Atlanta Falcons)

GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK

ATLANTA @ SEATTLE, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)

The line: Seahawks by 7

The weather: Rain, high of 57

The story: The Seahawks are coming off a bye. The Falcons are coming off a resounding defeat of Denver, their fourth straight win this year. Seattle has the top-ranked defense; Atlanta has the top-ranked offense. The Seahawks never allowed more than 18 points in a game; the Falcons never scored fewer than 23. So who has the edge? Seattle, and here’s why: 1) The Seahawks are home, where they’ve won 35 of their last 42 starts (including the playoffs). 2) they’re rested and 3) Russell Wilson had another week to heal an injured knee that’s handicapped him all season. If Wilson is OK, so are the Seahawks. They have the defense to pressure Matt Ryan (they have 12 sacks in four starts), and they have the linebackers to stay with Atlanta’s backs.

Hall-of-Fame worthy: Ryan has a passer rating of 100 or better in six of his last seven starts.

THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL-OF-FRAMING

CousinsKirkPHILADELPHIA @ WASHINGTON, 1 p.m. (EDT)

The line: Eagles by 3

The weather: Sunny, high of 71

The story: Suddenly, there’s some intrigue to a game that, prior to the season, had none. Washington is on a three-game tear, and Philadelphia was … until it ran into Detroit last week. The edge here goes to the Eagles because they have the league’s second-ranked defense. However, there is no edge if that unit plays as it did in Detroit. But there’s another reason to like the Eagles here: Turnovers. They don’t make them. Ryan Matthews’ game-deciding fumble last weekend was their first of the year, and coach Doug Pederson said officials blew the call. Bottom line: Philly is no accident waiting to happen.

Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Eagles are one of five teams (Seattle, Buffalo, Denver and Houston) to allow no more than three TD passes this season.

(Photo courtesy of Washington Redskins)
KANSAS CITY @ OAKLAND, 4:05 p.m. (EDT)

The line: Chiefs by 2

The weather: Rain, wind, high of 66

The story: The Raiders are the surprise team of the year. They’re 3-0 on the road, and 1-1 at home. Put them together, and you have Oakland’s best start since 2002 … or the last time they were a winning franchise. It also was the last time they were in the playoffs, and don’t look now, folks, but that’s the Raiders on the top of the AFC West. Kansas City was supposed to be that team, but the Chiefs are consistently inconsistent … especially on defense where they rank 21st overall and next to last in sacks with five. So why do oddsmakers favor the Chiefs? Because Andy Reid is 15-2 after the bye in  his career.

Hall-of-Fame worthy: Alex Smith is 7-1 vs. Oakland, with 18 TDs and three interceptions. In three starts at Oakland he has nine TDs, no interceptions and a passer rating of 133.7.

DALLAS @ GREEN BAY, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
19 August 2016: Dak Prescott (4) of the Dallas Cowboys during their 41-14 preseason win over the Miami Dolphins at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys
19 August 2016: Dak Prescott (4)
of the Dallas Cowboys during their 41-14 preseason win over the Miami Dolphins at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

The line: Packers by 4-1/2

The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 66

The story: The Cowboys are on a four-game winning streak, with quarterback Dak Prescott doing what he never was supposed to do – namely, create a quarterback controversy. I know what Jerry Jones says, but if Prescott continues to win … continues to play error-free ball … continues to energize this franchise … how can anyone just say no? Granted, the Cowboys’ last three wins have come vs. opponents with a combined record of 4-11. Doesn’t matter. Prescott is doing what he wasn’t supposed to do … and so are the Cowboys. They’re winning.

Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Cowboys are the  first team in history to have a rookie quarterback to throw for 1,000 yards and a rookie running back to rush for at least 500 yards through the first five games of the year.

MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

N.Y. JETS @ ARIZONA, 8:30 p.m. (EDT)

The line: Cards by 7-1/2

The weather: Sunny, high of 92 (retractable roof)

FitzgeraldLarryThe story: Larry Fitzgerald has 103 career touchdown catches, and there are only four teams he hasn’t scored on. The Jets are one of them, but stay tuned. That may change. Yeah, I know, Darrelle Revis returned to practice this week. But so what? Quarterbacks have been playing bombs-away with the Jets all season, Revis or no Revis. Carson Palmer is back for Arizona, and the Cardinals are home where they’ve won 21 of their last 28, including the playoffs. Combine that with the 12 touchdown passes, including four of 84, 71, 54 and 42 yards, thrown on New York, and you gotta love Big Red. OK, so at 1-4, the Jets are desperate. But they’re also mediocre. Its getting late early for Gang Green.

Hall-of-Fame worthy: Arizona is 8-3 in prime-time games under Bruce Arians, including 2-0 on Monday night.

(Larry Fitzgerald photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals)

OUR BEST BETS

Ron Borges — New England (–7-1-/2). Should win by 20. Bengals are toothless tigers.

Rick Gosselin — Detroit (–3). If you can beat the Eagles in your own building you can beat the Rams in your own building.

Clark Judge — Buffalo (–7-1/2).  Colin Kaepernick won’t stand up for the Star Spangled Banner, and he won’t stand up to the Bills pass rush, either.

WATCH LIST

Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger. With another four-touchdown performance, he would tie for the fourth-most passing touchdowns (19) through the first six games of the Super Bowl era.

Regular SeasonN.Y. Giants QB Eli Manning. He needs one touchdown pass to become the eighth quarterback to throw for 300 in a career.

Dallas coach Jason Garrett. He’s 0-3 vs. Green Bay.

Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald. With 51 receiving yards he passes Henry Ellard for 13th on the all-time list.

Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck. He aims for his sixth straight win vs. Houston. Luck has won 14 of his last 15 games within the division.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh. With his next win, he passes Brian Billick as the winningest coach in Ravens’ history. Both have 80 career victories.

(Ben Roethlisberger photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)

SUNDAYS HALL OF FAMOUS

New England QB Tom Brady. He’s 5-1 vs. Cincinnati, with 12 TDs, three interceptions and a 101.2 rating.

Green Bay RB Eddie Lacy. He has at least 100 yards rushing in all three games he played vs. Dallas.

Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger. He’s 4-1 vs. Miami (3-0 on the road), with a 109.9 rating – including 9 TDs, no interceptions and a rating of 143.0 in his past two.

New Orleans QB Drew Brees. He has 27 TD passes in his last seven games at home … and Carolina is next on the schedule.

Oakland DE Khalil Mack. He has seven sacks and 11 tackles for losses in his past five division games.

Kansas City CB Marcus Peters. He has five interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown) in his last four road games.

Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. He has seven touchdown passes and no interceptions in five career games vs. Dallas.

Indianapolis DE Robert Mathis. He has 8 sacks, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in his last 11 games vs. Houston.

HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY

Since the current 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, 17 teams that were three games or more under .500 after the first five weeks or after reached the playoffs – including seven 1-4 teams that won their divisions.

The Vikings are only the second team since 1933 to start 5-0 with no interceptions. The other was the 1969 L.A. Rams.

Houston is 3-0 at home and won seven of its last eight regular-season games there.

Since 2013, the Eagles are 7-2 vs. the NFC East on the road.

Russell Wilson is 29-5 at home, tying him with Joe Flacco for the league’s best home record to begin a career.

Nineteen of Baltimore’s last 21 games have been decided by one score (eight or fewer points).

Seattle has a streak of 92 straight games (including the playoffs) where it has either led or been within one score in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks’ largest defeat since Nov. 6, 2011, was a 27-27 loss to Green Bay last year.

Since 2005, Seattle fans have induced the most false-start penalties (149) in the league. Philadelphia and Arizona are second with 137.

 

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